The Big Picture: The social network

College and university foodservice operations continue to be the drivers of social media strategy. Eighty-four percent of C&U respondents to The Big Picture said they use social media to market their foodservice programs, with Facebook (82%), Twitter (67%) and Instagram (28%) being the preferred channels.

“This is what college students expect,” says Zia Ahmed, director of dining services at The Ohio State University and president of the National Association of College & University Food Services. “We have to take advantage of the technology they are using if we want to reach them and influence their choices.”

In addition, college and university operators are using social networks to provide more types of information than all other market segments combined. For example, 92% of college operators say they use social media to promote special meals and events, compared with only 53% of users in all other segments.

The only area in which other segments outshine colleges and universities is in posting health and nutrition info: 41% of colleges & universities vs. 46% of the rest of the industry.

Contracted foodservices overall are more likely than self-operators to use social media: 49% vs. 33%.

Operators who don’t use social media most often say they are not allowed access to such sites. The percentage is highest among hospitals (50%) and B&I operators (47%).


Networks used

While social media remains a go-to marketing strategy for colleges and universities, other segments haven’t embraced the concept. The most popular social media sites used in the industry, along with the percent of operators who don’t use social media:

  Total Business & Industry College & University Schools Hospitals LTC/Senior Living
Facebook 34% 4% 82% 26% 17% 22%
Twitter 20% 9% 67% 11% 4% 5%
Instagram 8% 0% 28% 5% 1% 2%
Pinterest 3% 0% 10% 3% 1% 2%
Do not use 64% 87% 16% 70% 81% 77%

How we use it

Not only are more college and university operators using social media for marketing, they also are using it to provide more information. 

social network use


Why we don't use it

Lack of access is the major reason most operators said they don’t use social media.

social network non use

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